Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft to be investigated for online service practices

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced today, April 5, it would be investigating Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft for their practices in relation to online subscription services. Nintendo Switch Online, PlayStation Plus, and Xbox Live will all be looked into with the CMA set to investigate the terms of contract, obtaining refunds, and auto-renewals.

“The Competition and Markets Authority is concerned about whether some of these companies’ business practices are legal, such as their use of auto-renewals for online gaming contracts, their cancellation and refund policies, and their terms and conditions,” opens the CMA’s declaration of their investigation into the video games giants.

The statement goes on to explain what the online services of these companies are in layman’s terms. The CMA also explains they have contacted each company with regards to better understanding their current practices. The government department also requests that customers contact them to share details of their experiences with the services.

The CMA lists the issues they’ll be investigating as “Are the contract terms unfair?” “How easy is it to cancel or obtain a refund?” “How fair is the auto-renewal process?”. The statement elaborates further on these particular issues. Microsoft currently requires users to visit their website in order to disable an auto-renewal, rather than allowing the change to be made directly on the console.

The chief executive of the CMA Andrea Coscelli gave the following statement, “Roll-over contracts are becoming more and more commonplace and it’s essential that they work well for customers. Our investigation will look into whether the biggest online gaming companies are being fair with their customers … Should we find that the firms aren’t treating people fairly under consumer protection law, we are fully prepared to take action.”

The statement explains that this investigation is in response to what is called a “super-complaint” made by Citizens Advice, a charitable body in the UK which aims to advise consumers. The complaint refers to a “loyal penalty,” the practice of consumers being penalized in some form for sticking with a company.

This move by the UK government comes hot on the heels of UK monarch Prince Harry stating that he believes battle royale sensation Fortnite should be banned. His comments include, “you will probably end up getting bullied,” and “it’s created to addict.”